Letter: Act now to avert famine

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Sir: As an agency that has worked in Sudan for over 20 years, Cafod was deeply concerned at some of the assertions made in the article "Is there really a famine in Sudan?" (7 May).

It's all too easy to sit in London and play the numbers game, debating where a humanitarian crisis ends and a famine begins. In the meantime people are put at ever-greater risk of dying as each day passes without sufficient aid getting through to them.

We reject the claim that "famine fatigue" might set in if the crisis is highlighted before it becomes a full-blown tragedy. As Cafod has seen from the early response to our appeal, the British public is more interested in prevention and is willing to contribute to a programme that can avert disaster.

The next few weeks are crucial for the people of Sudan. After that the rains will begin and it will be very difficult to reach the people at greatest risk of starvation. However, if we can get enough food through now, it may be possible to sustain people until the August harvest.

Because we work with the local church structures we do not need to set up feeding centres or relief shelters, because we can reach the people in their villages. Therefore our relief work is not encouraging people to leave their homes to get food.

Cafod has received an urgent appeal from our church partners in Sudan, who have told us that people now face starvation. As a direct response we have appealed to our supporters for pounds 1m. We believe that the public would prefer to respond now rather than wait until later in the year when there may be more deaths.

PAT JONES

Deputy Director, Cafod

London SW9

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